ASH FORK — Down by three goals in the second half of Saturday afternoon’s 1A-3A North Region opener at Ash Fork, things weren’t looking too good for Grand Canyon High School. After all, three goals is a pretty good-sized deficit to overcome when it comes to soccer.
Miles Hunter kicks up the dust along with a penalty kick for a goal Saturday against the Spartans.
The Phantoms regained their composure, scored three straight and forced overtime with the stunned Spartans. But then it was Ash Fork’s turn for heroics as the home team scored twice in overtime for the 6-4 victory.
Despite the loss, Grand Canyon coach Ken Olsen was glad to see the team rally after being down by three goals.
"That’s something we don’t usually do so I’m happy about that," Olsen said. "That’s the difference between this year and last year. I think we outplayed them ... but Ash Fork’s a good team."
Grand Canyon took an early 1-0 lead on a penalty kick goal by Miles Hunter. But the Spartans came right back with a shot to the left of the Phantom goalie. Ash Fork then went up 2-1 with a penalty kick goal.
Later in the first half, Grand Canyon had a chance to tie with another penalty kick opportunity but the attempt ended up right in the hands of Ash Fork’s goalie. The Spartans then scored again for a 3-1 advantage.
Mitchell Walker had a shot on goal late in the half but Ash Fork’s goalie made a great stop. The Phantoms had a corner kick opportunity with about a minute before halftime but it landed on top of the net. In a 10-minute stretch of the half, the Phantoms appeared to be out of control offensively.
After the two teams came out for the second half, Ash Fork scored another goal for a 4-1 lead. Grand Canyon’s goalie came out prematurely for the ball and the Spartan player sailed the ball over his head and into the net. About a minute later, Ash Fork just missed another goal when the ball sailed high.
Grand Canyon then had several opportunities on corner kicks in the following minutes. After a couple of corner kicks gone awry, Walker headed the ball into the net on an assist from Omar Badillo.
The Phantoms came right back and took advantage of an Ash Fork penalty in the box. Hunter took the penalty kick and scored to the left to cut the deficit to 4-3.
After some good stops on defense, Grand Canyon tied the match with about nine minutes remaining on a goal by Badillo.
The match was stopped for a few minutes when some unruly Ash Fork fans behind Grand Canyon’s bench were warned for using profanity.
"When the crowd was saying vulgar things ... that’s not right," Olsen said. "At that point, I was ready to say we’re done. The coach was real good about it and after that, it was no problem. I appreciate Sonny Martin helping calm them down."
Grand Canyon had a chance for another goal in the final seconds of regulation. As the Phantoms were lining up for a corner kick, the second-half whistle sounded.
Overtime rules call for two 10-minute periods. Neither team scored a goal in the first period. Grand Canyon barely missed a goal on a perfect setup for a header into the goal, but Ash Fork thwarted the play. Later with the Spartans threatening, Grand Canyon’s Austin Lindig came up with a good defensive stop.
In the second overtime, Ash Fork’s Antonio Santoyo scored on a header into the net in the first few minutes. Rene Ayala added another goal for the Spartans in the final seconds.
"That was closer than I wanted," Ash Fork’s Martin said. "I think our boys needed to keep playing. They thought they had it won and were overconfident."
Santoyo and Ayala each scored two goals in the Ash Fork win. Luis Morales and Alejandro Vasquez also scored.
"I was impressed with Ash Fork’s players," Olsen said. "They were all good, well-behaved kids. There was some hard action and some of the fans were complaining about rough play. But soccer is a contact sport."
The match was a key early-season contest for both teams. Chino Valley downed Sedona Red Rock, 2-1, in another key 1A-3A North Region matchup last week.
"I think we’ll get better," Olsen said. "I didn’t think we played as well as we could. We made some mistakes."
Grand Canyon opened the season with the Round Valley Tournament. The Phantoms fell to Show Low, 5-1 before beating Round Valley, 4-2. On day two, Grand Canyon lost to Kirtland Central-N.M., 8-0, and Holbrook, 5-4.
The Phantoms will head to Sedona Red Rock Friday for a 2 p.m. game against the Scorpions. Grand Canyon will play at Camp Verde Saturday at 4 p.m.